Nov 6, 2019
Washington State Wine Commission pursues execution of strategic plan

The Washington State Wine Commission Board of Directors approved an updated strategic research plan for the Washington wine industry in June 2019.

This plan carries forward Washington’s world-leading viticulture and enology research program and will support and fund an estimated $5.5 million  of research from 2019 to 2023.

As part of the strategic plan, the Wine Commission has launched a research grant program to fund short-term and intermediate projects for 2020.
Applications for the Short-term grant program will be accepted from Dec. 1, 2019 through Jan. 15, 2020 To learn about the Short-Term grant program, download the following documents:

Applications for theIntermediate grant program will be accepted from Dec. 1, 2019 through Jan. 31, 2020To learn about the Intermediate grant program, download the following:

The new four-year research plan builds upon the current accomplishments of Washington’s industry-driven, industry-guided research program. Priorities of the research program are developed from broad industry input and research results are made available to all Washington wine grape growers and wineries—regardless of size. Research helps growers produce better grapes and vintners make better wine by addressing key industry challenges, like grapevine viruses that shorten vineyard productivity and reduce fruit quality, new pest species in Washington grapes, wine spoilage and tannin management.

History of wine research in Washington state

Viticulture and enology research began in Washington State in 1937, when Dr. Walter Clore was appointed assistant horticulturist at WSU’s Irrigated and Agriculture Research Extension Center in Prosser. Clore, who is recognized as the “father” of Washington’s wine industry, initiated research through trials of American, European and French hybrid grape varieties throughout the state.Significant investment in wine research began in the early 1980s, when legislation appropriated funding (1/4 cent per liter of wine sold) to WSU for research programs in viticulture, enology and agricultural economics. The legislation directed that the industry be involved in the research program by making research recommendations, a role that has been filled by the Wine Research Advisory Committee.The last three years, annual funding of the viticulture and enology research program has totaled around $1 million per year on average. Funding comes from four main sources.

  • Washington State Wine
  • Auction of Washington Wines
  • WSU Agriculture Research Center (State general funds)
  • State liter sales tax (1/4 cent per liter of wine)

Wine Research Advisory Committee Members 

The Wine Research Advisory Committee (WRAC), a subcommittee of Washington State Wine, serves as the scientific review arm for the wine industry. Each year, the WRAC establishes research priorities based on industry stakeholder input, issues Requests for Proposals (RFPs) to the scientific research community and reviews research reports and proposals. The volunteer members of WRAC make annual research funding recommendations for approval by the Board of Commissioners of Washington State Wine.

2019-2020 WRAC Members

Chair, Rick Hamman, Hogue Ranches, Prosser

Leah Adint, Canoe Ridge Estate Winery, Paterson

Dick Boushey, Boushey Vineyards, Grandview

Brian Carter Brian Carter Cellars, Woodinville

Kevin Corliss Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, Prosser

Julia Kock Klipsun Vineyards, Benton City

Francis “Linn” Scott, Sparkman Cellars, Woodinville

Kay Simon, Chinook Winery, Prosser

Russell Smithyman, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, Prosser

Scott Williams, Kiona Vineyards and Winery, Benton City

Wade Wolfe, Thurston Wolfe Winery, Prosser

Research impact

After adopted by the industry, more than 30 years of research has resulted in game-changing cultural and winemaking practices that share the goal of improved wine quality. Highlights of past research that have been adopted by the industry:

  • Pest management: WSU innovated pest control strategies to develop a grapevine trunk barrier application for cutworms that eliminated the need for broad-spectrum pesticides and has reduced the use of pesticides by 80 percent from 1995 to 2005. WSU estimated that eliminating organophosphates in the mid-2000s—when there were 28,000 acres of wine grapes in the state—added $15 million to the growers’ bottom line by saving $1 million annually in reduced insecticide costs and increasing yields by .5 ton per acre from improved cutworm control, valued at $14 million. Savings today would be nearly double the $15 million based on 50,000 acres of wine grapes. An added benefit has been fewer spider mite outbreaks; growers no longer need season-long control of mites and can control mites with one miticide application, saving up to $100 per acre annually in miticide costs or $3.5 million on a statewide basis.
  • Irrigation: WSU pioneered deficit irrigation strategies for red wine grape varieties to control canopy growth and density and produce small berries with concentrated flavors, saving 30 percent in irrigation water use and pumping costs and improving wine quality.
  • Disease management: Through research, WSU developed a risk-assessment model for powdery mildew, which has helped growers eliminate one or more fungicide applications annually and reduce fungicide use by 40 percent. Each fungicide spray is estimated to cost growers an average of $45 per acre or $2.2 million for each application based on current state acreage of 50,000 acres.
  • Cold hardiness: Growers use a cold hardiness model developed by WSU to help make freeze/frost protection decisions and match cultivars to sites, which saves fuel and energy costs from unnecessary wind machine use and helps growers make wise planting investments.

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